Friday, June 17, 2016

Government’s Interest in Marriage IS About Children

Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children.  Government recognition of marriage protects children by encouraging men and women to commit themselves to each other and to take responsibility for their children.

From a public policy perspective, marriage is about uniting a man and a woman with each other as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children their sexual union produces.  Marriage is based on the anthropological truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the social reality that children deserve a mother and a father.

Whenever a baby is born, there is always a mother nearby.  She’s normally in the same room.  That’s a fact of biology.  The question is whether a father will be close by and, if so, for how long.  Marriage increases the odds that the father of a child will be committed to the child’s mother and that the two of them, committed to each other, will be committed to their child.  It connects persons and goods that otherwise tend to fragment.  As the late sociologist James Q. Wilson put it, “Marriage is a socially arranged solution for the problem of getting people to stay together and care for children that the mere desire for children, and the sex that makes children possible, does not solve.”

Connecting sex, babies, and moms and dads is the irreplaceable social function of marriage.  Laws and social expectations can strengthen or weaken marriage in this role, and that’s why the government is rightly involved in this aspect of our lives.  Maggie Gallagher develops this idea:

The critical public or “civil” task of marriage is to regulate sexual relationships between men and women in order to reduce the likelihood that children (and their mothers, and society) will face the burdens of fatherlessness, and increase the likelihood that there will be a next generation that will be raised by their mothers and fathers in one family, where both parents are committed to each other and to their children.

As strong as the government’s interest is in the marriage of its citizen, however, it is important to remember that the government does not create marriage, it recognizes marriage.  Marriage is a natural institution that predates government.  Society as a whole, not merely any given set of spouses, benefits from marriage.  This is because marriage helps to channel the procreative love into a stable institution that provides for the orderly bearing and rearing of the next generation.

Ryan T. Anderson, “Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom,” pg.24-26

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